Every summer I see people online ask the same question, “why can’t we have more conventions in the winter?” The short answer to that is the various facilities charge more during the months we have nicer weather. However, for a couple of years Phoenix Fan Fusion had a spin-off con during November and December. Let’s a take look back at the history of that con: Phoenix Fan Fest.
On September 27, 2014 (wow, EIGHT years ago already), Phoenix Comicon (before they changed names) announced a new convention which was called Phoenix Fan Fest. This convention was to be held at the football stadium in Glendale on December 12-14 that same year.
“We believe there is a need for a strong artist and fan focused show during the winter.
We believe Arizonans should have an opportunity to showcase their costumes and not melt in the summer heat.” , this was thinking of the director of Phoenix Comicon and the West Valley of Phoenix was treated to just that. It was a mini version of Phoenix Comicon inside the football stadium which saw plenty of cosplay, outdoor activities, holiday shopping and people WEARING JACKETS. There were a handful of guests from various fandoms such as Doctor Who on hand the first year as well.
The con saw just over 11,000 attendees over the course of the three days which was enough to bring it back in 2015. Another thought behind Fan Fest was it could be an alternative to people who experienced discomfort from the crowd sizes at Phoenix Comicon. If you remember, 2014-2016 is when the crowds started getting massive at Phoenix Comicon. Fan Fest stayed in the December time frame in 2015 but this time it was a week earlier: December 4-6.
2015 also saw Karen Gillan (The Guardians of the Galaxy) as the big guest at Fan Fest. However, due to the lack of rooms where the panel could be held at the stadium, the panel was moved to the Renaissance Hotel which was about a 5-10 walk from the stadium. 2015 also saw a surprise appearance from legendary animator Don Bluth which was very exciting.
The West Valley only got two years with Phoenix Fan Fest which is a bummer. Having the con at the stadium gave it such a unique vibe and the massive free parking didn’t hurt either. It was decided that Fan Fest 2016 would move to Downtown Phoenix. There was a whole list of reasons on why the move happened (which you can read right here) but it boiled down to they thought they would get more people to attend if it was centrally located. This also prompted the convention to move from December to October with the thinking people might have more to spend with a little bit more buffer before the holidays really started.
The 2016 version of Fan Fest also went from a three day con to two days which were October 22 – 23. The guest list that year was actually quite good with guests such as John Cena, David Harbour and Millie Bobbi Brown from Stranger Things, several guests from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Even though Fan Fest had moved to the Phoenix Convention Center, it wasn’t anywhere near what you would expect from Fan Fusion and it wasn’t supposed to be. The exhibit hall was on the third floor of the convention center which had in the past be the home to the “Hall of Heroes” at Phoenix Comicon. I actually wasn’t a big fan of the con that year, with the tile of my review being “Phoenix Fan Fest Puts A Sleeper Hold On Downtown Phoenix” which was a nod to the wrestling guests but as well as it was just kind of a boring event.
Phoenix Fan Fest returned in 2017 which was still at the Phoenix Convention Center for November 11-12. This time the exhibit floor was on the bottom floor but only a small portion of it, not the entire thing like you see at Fan Fusion. The guest list that year was another great and the panels were held on the exhibit floor instead of panel rooms. The writing was on the wall at that point since it was such a lackluster convention.
A week or so before Phoenix Comicon 2018, it was announced that Phoenix Fan Fest was no more:
“After careful consideration, we have made the very difficult decision to discontinue our fall/winter show, Phoenix Fan Fest, at this time. Phoenix Fan Fest, traditionally held in October or November, has struggled over the years to find its own identity, audience, balance of price, size, and offerings, and community support. It is not for lack of love of our fans, but in the best interest of the future of all our shows that we have decided not to host Phoenix Fan Fest 2018.”
It’s also worth noting that around this time Square Egg Entertainment (the parent company of Fan Fusion, Fan Fest, etc) was exploring more out of state events. They had held an event in Minnesota and plans were in the works for a show in Las Vegas which also ended up being cancelled. They even trademarked a Tucson event with rumors that they were going to buy Tucson Comic-Con but that never happened either.
So we had a fall/winter convention but with the inconsistencies and the eventual stale feeling when it moved to Downtown Phoenix, it just couldn’t draw the attendance it needed to survive. If you’re interested in some more in depth looks at Phoenix Fan Fest, I have various articles and interviews from the staff at that time which you can check out right here.
Did you get a chance to attend one of the versions of Phoenix Fan Fest? Let me know Twitter!